Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SPUR, Smart[sic] Growth, and highrise development in San Francisco

Gabriel Metcalf

In this morning's New York Times (A Mayor in the Middle of Two San Franciscos):

In the 1970s, the city began passing regulations that made it extremely difficult and costly to build new housing in the city, said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of SPUR, a public policy center devoted to planning and urban research.

Bullshit. Lazy journalists in San Francisco routinely go to Metcalf for a soundbite on housing and transportation issues, usually characterizing him in neutral terms, like the above. Or as a "smart growth" advocate, which sounds pretty good, unless you actually know how dumb the smart growth ideas really are---and how bad they are for the city.

Metcalf gets the "smart growth" designation in the Chronicle this morning (Wiener: complaint on waterfront proposal "ridiculous"):

Texts and e-mails that [Supervisor]Wiener's office turned over under a public records request show that Gabriel Metcalf, the executive director for SPUR, a smart-growth think tank, suggested to Wiener that state law allows the Board of Supervisors to request specific information from departments about the fiscal and other impacts of ballot measures. That was on Feb. 4, the day after [Jon]Golinger's No Wall on the Waterfront group turned in more than double the 9,702 signatures needed to qualify their measure for the ballot. Two days later, Metcalf e-mailed a draft resolution and followed up later, saying in part: "Hoping to stay unmentioned for now. Till my board takes its vote."

The pro-development Metcalf and Supervisor Wiener are natural allies, since Wiener too is often described as a "good government" guy, though that's not any truer about him than it is of Metcalf.

Who is Metcalf and what does he stand for? 

As I pointed out several years ago, he personifies all the fashionable, half-baked ideas on planning and transportation that are now damaging the city: the Bicycle Plan (Metcalf is of course a bike guy and a negligent parent: "I take my kid around in a bike seat, but I haven't yet had to face letting him ride on his own, which scares me").

Metcalf supports the Central Subwayhigh-speed rail, and highrise development in San Francisco. Metcalf's vision for San Francisco:

People love to live in highrises. Rincon Hill and Transbay are the first attempts to create a whole new neighborhood on that concept. I think it's absolutely the right thing to be doing for the environment. Instead of sprawling outward and making people drive, we're going to build homes for people at extremely high density, where they can walk to work and walk to the store and finally grow up and embrace their urbanity.

Yes, why don't Jon Golinger, Art Agnos, and Aaron Peskin just "grow up and embrace their urbanity"?

It can't go "unmentioned" that it's not surprising that good old Gabe is scheming with the owners of the Giants and other fat cats to defeat the initiative against waterfront highrises.[Later: The end result of the machinations by Metcalf and Wiener can be seen on this city website, as city departments all sing for their supper in opposition to Prop. B.]

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At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, what's with all the insistence on living in San Francisco? There's plenty of other places to live in the Bay Area. I saw that they are building new some new high density housing in Marin, so that will help take some of the pressure off SF. It's fortunate that people in Marin are so welcoming of newcomers and enthusiastic for new housing to be built there.

At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another city ruined by so called "Smart [sic] Growth" and the anti-car nuts:


I predict desolation as great as Detroit within the next year or two.

At 12:41 PM, Anonymous sfthen said...

It is difficult to see how such dumb people can actually do "smart growth," Metcalf being the obvious case. In 2002 he authored Transportation For A Livable City which is essentially a string of clich├ęd New Urbanist phrases but in reference 14 he give his formula for "force".

Most high school kids would immediately see that he is incorrect and even if you didn't know the formula a simple dimensional analysis would invalidate Metcalf.

Indeed, if Gabriel Metcalf had found a different solution to Newton's centuries old Second Law of Motion (as opposed to Gabe Metcalf being too dumb to copy from a book) then Gabriel Metcalf would be in Stockholm receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics instead of San Francisco being paid to kiss up to politicians.

SPUR = San Francisco for Dummies.

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I predict desolation as great as Detroit within the next year or two."

Because Detroit is so much like San Francisco?

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"SPUR = San Francisco for Dummies."

I agree. The problem is those dummies---with support from developers---are now making policy for San Francisco.

But the natives in the neighborhoods are getting restless, as the vote against 8 Washington shows. Mayor Lee and City Hall are worried about the measures they're putting on November's ballot to raise still more money for the 5,000+ employee MTA bureaucracy, since they aren't polling well.

At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mayor Lee and City Hall are worried about the measures they're putting on November's ballot to raise still more money for the 5,000+ employee MTA bureaucracy, since they aren't polling well.

Indeed. The latest poll data from Price Waterhouse show a lack of support for those measures. The breakouts show that the majority of those opposing the bonds do so because they understand that bonds are paid back with general taxes (sales/property) and state that they would prefer MUNI to be paid for with user fees on motorists.

Expect the bonds to go down and for Lee to have to backpedal on his promises to eliminate Sunday Metering. This won't close the gap, however, so expect further service cuts. Interestingly, the breakout data shows 62% of respondents in the 18-25 and 25-36 demographics stating that they would rather have MUNI service cut than pay more taxes. When asked why, 92% said that they prefer to use alternate transportation - walking, cycling, and taxis.

At the 37-45 level this breakout drops to 51%. It is only when you get to the 46-55 demographic that voters prefer MUNI to walking/cycling/taxis, but even then they widely support user fees on motorists.

At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anonymous Muni seems to always be near a tipping point, where it gets so bad that people don't want to save it by increasing funding for it. Then it goes into a vicious circle where it gets less funded, gets worse, repeat until transit is effectively privatized.


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